Coriander has been used in cooking for centuries. The leaves seeds and even roots can be used, and have independent flavours and uses. Coriander seeds and leaves have a mild lemony flavour. The leaves are also known as cilantro and are used to garnish and flavour a number of dishes, including Thai and Indian curries, and salsas and salads. They are also used in many Latin dishes, for example salsa and ceviche. The seeds are used as a spice, used to flavour curries and soups. The roots are rarely used, however they can be added to curries or ground and used as a substitute for coffee.
Cilantro (coriander leaves) resembles flat-leaved parsley. They have a strong and pungent flavour, which some people liken to the taste of soap. Despite this, cilantro is a popular herb and can be chopped up and added raw to salsas and salads, or used to garnish soups and curries or sprinkled over a warm, garlic naan bread to serve with your favourite curry.
In particular, they are fantastic when added to vegetable stir-fries (such as Chinese and Thai) and can even be added to poultry dishes for a taste of the Orient. When adding fresh cilantro to a hot dish, ensure that you add it at the last minute so the flavour and colour of the leaves does not diminish through cooking.
Cilantro is best eaten when fresh; it is sometimes available as a dried herb, however most of the flavour is diminished during the drying process. It is best eaten within a couple of hours of harvesting it and is ideally freshly picked from your own herb garden.
Coriander seeds are used dried and often ground into a fine powder. Coriander seeds have a mild, spicy, citrus flavour and are used as the basis of many dishes, including Indian and Thai recipes. Coriander seeds are normally toasted before being ground to bring out their full flavour.
The ground form of the seeds is used widely in curry powders, providing a pleasant fragrance and flavour without any of the heat associated with them. The whole seed is often used as part of a pickling spice. The seeds also form an important ingredient in tomato chutneys. They are often added to biscuits and baked goods.
For an interesting alternative use of coriander seeds, they may be distilled to produce an essential oil. One of the oldest essential oils available, it is used commercially for baked goods and meat products. The oil is sometimes even used in liqueurs.
While not very commonly used these days, coriander root is also edible. It can be ground and used as a substitute for coffee.
Coriander is a delicious and versatile herb, used in a variety of dishes including Indian and Thai dishes and salsas and salads. Both the leaves (cilantro) and the seeds are commonly used (even the roots if you are feeling adventurous), and have distinct flavours and uses. The leaves are best eaten fresh and the seeds are best eaten dried, toasted and ground into a fine powder to use as a spice.